By Sen. Mary Jo Wilhelm (February Update)
Bullying can devastate children, families and communities, with effects on kids sometimes lasting into adulthood. It’s a serious problem that warrants a thoughtful, informed, appropriate response from policymakers and other adults.
In 2007, the Legislature voted to require all school districts to have anti-harassment/anti-bullying policies, to make complaint forms available to the targets of bullying or harassment, to put investigative procedures into place, and to collect and report data regarding bullying and harassment. Seven years later, this policy has not been fully implemented in some schools, and across the state, inadequate resources have been invested in prevention and training.
In the last couple of years, reports have pointed out that the numbers of reported cases of bullying in Iowa are not consistent with the rest of the country. Iowa school districts, on average, reported fewer than 2 percent of their students have been bullied in any given year since the state passed its anti-bullying law in 2007. National averages are around 30 percent. To tackle that inconsistency, the Iowa Department of Education implemented a new anti-bullying policy in select schools during the 2011-12 school year, which it hopes to take statewide.
We must do more to eliminate bullying in schools, including enforcing anti-bullying policies, teacher training and parent involvement in reducing bullying behaviors. Simple solutions can go a long way to ensuring students feel safe and supported.
Senate Study Bill 3149 is an effort to improve the environment for students at all Iowa schools. I look forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues in the House on the best ways to address bullying in schools and to provide assistance to school officials to effectively handle the problem.
If you know a child or family that is struggling with bullying, please encourage them to work with the school administration to help eliminate the problem of bullying. It’s a team effort!
UPCOMING PUBLIC FORUMS
• Friday, February 14, 9:30 a.m.: Worth County Listening Post at Northwood City Hall
• Saturday, February 15, 9:30 a.m.: Mitchell County Listening Post at the Riceville Library
• Saturday, February 15, 11:30 a.m.: Howard County Listening Post at the Cresco Library
• Saturday, March 1, 9 a.m.: Chickasaw County Legislative Forum at the Farm Bureau Building in New Hampton
• Saturday, March 1, 11 a.m.: Floyd County Listening Post at Aromas Coffee, 105 N. Main Street, Charles City